Unfinished: Pilots career... and his much larger destiny
|“I woke up in the infirmary an hour or two later. Nothing too major.”
“Are you sure you’re alright, should you be up and about?” said Sarah looking concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Talon replied trying not to stare back at Sharky’s suspicious gaze. “What about the other exams, what was you’re practical like Sam?”
“I’d like to hear about yours too Natasha” Said Midnight to the Japanese woman.
“Let’s hear about Sam’s first, Ben.”
“Huh, oh yeah the practical exams right.” He looks around uncomfortably “Err… which one first.”
“Let’s have the engineering final first Neon;” said Talon, “I don’t think I can cope with any more excitement for a while. We’ll hear about the intel exam afterwards”
“O.K, err… well it’s not that interesting. We were in one of the big labs, and we got an assortment of spare parts along with a power source and some tools. They gave use 3 hours to build a shield generator.”
“Wow, I knew the techie exams were tough, but that’s nuts.” said Sharky.
“Huh, what? Oh tough, yeah I guess. Anyhow most at the end of the exam we all stood at the front and Chief Engineer Maddox inspected each one and tried turning them on. Well, err… most of them didn’t work, but we had a couple that nearly did, the shield formed but kinda fizzled out. Err… one exploded.”
“Jees, bet Maddox wasn’t best pleased with that. How about yours Sam, did it blow up?” said Sharky.
“Mine worked fine, although Maddox didn’t look to happy about the fact that he couldn’t get at it to turn it off, I think they found a way to shut it off in the end.”
“Very impressive, Monsieur Sam. Were the intel exam so fruitful?”
“Oh intel, yeah, they were more like yours actually, to parts, first as a group then as an individual. Ermm, how’d it go again, oh yeah, the first bit in teams, we were all in groups of five or six, I think, and in a flagship tactical command room. We got given an intelligence brief and had to devise a strategy and put it into the computer, move all are ships into position and such like, easy really. Anyway the teams that got a victory were put through to a kind of free-for-all, like in you’re exam. Everyone got a separate brief and a separate strategy map, and the idea was you had command of a single carrier and its fighters, and were against everyone else on the map. I launched a compliment of fighters and bombers, set them off on a seek and destroy, and hid in a Nebulae. I waited till I thought things had died down, and then came out on the final, five carriers, who had already launched all their fighters and were heavily damaged from killing each other. I launched another wave of bombers and came across the stern of one of the carriers, gave them a full broadside. My bombers did well too, evaded the last of the fighters and took out another of the carriers. I ordered them onto a third which I also sent a wave of torpedoes at. The fourth and fifth were more difficult, they had stopped attacking each other, and were ganging up on me, but they were so heavily damaged already that I could just slug it out with them.”
“Cool. How ‘bout you Tasha, did the high and mighty officer have a good exam?” said Sharky playfully. Midnight put his arm around her as if to comfort her from the teasing.
“Actually, it was really good; we were in a mock-up command and control centre. They ran a series of battle simulations ranging from an ambush through to a full scale battle. They graded us on teamwork and general proficiency in a combat situation. It was very realistic; I guess that they turned the safety levels right down for us too.” remarked Natasha.
“So,” asked Midnight, and she stared back at him quizzically, “how did it go?”
“Oh, right, yeah, most of my team made it through the exam, a couple of people panicked but mostly it went okay. I know I passed, but I’ll find out tomorrow just how well I did.”
“We really ought to give you a call sign y’know.” said Talon, “Sam’s got one and he’s not a pilot, even if he is out in space most of the time, and you’re as much a part of the group as he is.”
“Really?” questioned Natasha sounding rather chuffed.
“I think it’s a great idea.” said Sarah.
“It has been a long time in the coming.” said Vanessa.
“How about Panther?” suggested Midnight, “cos she’s beautiful, elegant and deadly when you get her angry?” Natasha feigned annoyance at her boyfriend.
“Actually I think its perfect.” said Sharky, “just seems to fit; maybe it’s the long black hair?”
“It’s settled then, here’s to our newest victim, Panther you are formally inducted into the ranks of the proud.” They all drain their glasses before bursting out laughing. “On that sombre note its high time we started thinking about settling the bill.”
“Come on Talon you old man,” says Sharky, “It’s only…” he looks at his watch, “a quarter to one. O.K perhaps you’re right. I’ll try and catch the waiter when he passes.”
“In that case when et where should we meet tomorrow?” said Vanessa.
“I dunno; err… how about o-nine thirty? …just outside the ceremony hall?” Talon looks around the table, “is that O.K with everyone there are mumbled assents as the waiter brings the bill. “Could we split it err… 5 ways please?”
“Brin, you don’t have to pay for me. It’s O.K.” said Sarah quietly but emphatically.
“No tonight’s my treat. I invited you, and I tore you away from you’re boyfriend, the least I can do is pay.” Sarah looks indignant, but has obviously decided to give in. Sharky on the other hand…
“Talon, now I have to offer to pay for Nessa as well, or else I look bad.”
“That’ll be four ways then.” said Brin quickly before taking the bill from the impatient looking waiter and pressing his thumb to the print reader, before passing it on. “Could you add the tip to my quarter please?” he said to the waiter, who immediately straightened up a little.
They all stood up, with various people politely helping others up. They walked casually to the door. “Goodbye people.” said Brin as he and Sarah, turned to part with the others.
“Bye.” said Sarah. A chorus of replies followed. As they strolled down the wide corridors of the public section of the space station Brin was the first to speak.
“I guess I’ll walk you back then, it’s not far out of my way.” He held out his arm, in the rather old fashioned, movie like way.
“Thanks.” she replied as she took it and they walked on.
“I can’t believe it’s been four years.” said Talon, “I can’t believe we survived four years.”
“The time flew by, the classes dragged on.”
“I’ll say. Can you remember the first class we ever had together?”
“Vaguely, can you?”
“Yeah, sort of. It was our fist lesson on faster than light travel. I came in late and had to sit at the back, right next to you.”
“That’s right! I remember you introduced yourself, and immediately hit on me.”
“Err, no don’t remember that. You sure it wasn’t someone else?” They both laugh. “I was a little naïve back then.” He starts coughing and wipes his mouth; we can just see the orangey-red smear along the back of his hand.
“You alright?” she asked.
“Its nothing, probably just swallowed a fly.”
“It’s a space station, there are no flies.”
“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting.” He grins and she laughs.
“I first met James in a sim-pod lesson. Simple flight manoeuvres and basic formations training. He was showing off. It was rather comical, I remember he was trying to be too clever in one of the formations the instructor shot at him and he slammed into my fighter. I guess it got us talking.”
“I always wondered how you and him got together.”
“What’s that meant to mean?” She said, still sounding jovial.
“Oh, only that I wouldn’t have expected you two to pair off, it always struck me as an odd match.”
“I can’t say you’re wrong. I didn’t think it would last that long, but well it did.” There is a pause in the conversation and as they continue walking, Talon starts coughing again and they both stop, begins to curl up, as if he has no breath left in his body. This time the blood on his lip and teeth is clear as he straightens up and Sarah gasps. He wipes his mouth and says,
“I’m fine, really.”
“No, you’re not.” she replies, “Come, on we’re near my place you need to sit down and rest.” When she tries to take his arm this time he shrugs it off, and walks along beside her in silence. A few streets later and not a single cough, “It’s just down here.”
“I know.” Talon replied, but his teeth were gritted, against the pain. They walk on a few metres. He falls, blacks out. She dives to arrest his fall; catching him by one arm and across the chest. Hauling him up to a door she presses a thumb to a touchpad and the door slides open and closes behind them as she drags him across the threshold.
He wakes up on a middle sized bed. The lights are dim and comfortable to his unadjusted eyes. His shirt is off, the bandages around his chest clearly visible and there are blood stains around his lips. Sarah walks in with a moist flannel. She is still in the same dress. She perches on the edge of the bed and twists to gently wipe his lips clean of blood.
“First time I met James,” he says as she finishes wiping his face, “I wound up bandaged and bloody on a bed like this.” she looks stunned and remains silent. “We didn’t have a class together until the first day of second year. So I hadn’t talked to him at all. As I remember it was Advanced Combat and Dog fighting Techniques. It was the first time they ever took all the safeties off in the sim-pods. They asked for volunteers for a simple one-on-one and when I beat him he accused me of cheating. I was already half gone from the g-forces. Lucky for me he was too or I would have ended up in a hospital rather than just limping back to Vanessa’s quarters with her and passing out.”
“He never told me that.”
“Doesn’t surprise me, we were told not to tell people, the whole class had to keep it pretty quiet. Nessa said that the g-forces that I pulled in the pod were sufficient to kill an average person and should have forced me to, at least, pass out if the pod was working correctly. That’s why Scorpion went for me; he thought I had cheated by putting the safeties on.”
“I knew you didn’t like each other, I guess now I know why.”
“Yeah, he never really forgave me, even though they proved I didn’t touch the thing, it was just a malfunction of some sort, they never figured out what. I guess I never really forgave him either, especially as he didn’t go out of his way to try and make up for it.” He has a brief episode of coughing, although there is no blood this time. “I guess you called the meds then?”
“Yeah, a while ago. It seems that someone escaped out of the infirmary without being discharged. You wouldn’t happen to know who that was would you?”
“Sorry Sarah, I guess they were keeping me in there for a reason after all. Have you told the others yet?”
“No, you weren’t out long I haven’t had a chance. Plus the med team is on its way, I figured I’d wait and see what they said first. You gave me quite a scare. If you were so badly hurt why didn’t you take it easy? For that matter why did you come at all?”
“It’s stupid really, it’s just this is our last day as students. Tomorrow we graduate, and it’s quite possible we’ll all be sent to different ends of the known galaxy, this might have been our last evening as a group, I wanted to be a part of that, and I didn’t want anything to spoil it.” There is a mechanical chime at the door. “Before they come in, could you do me a favour? I’d like it if you came with me.”
“Of course I’m coming.” she replies and then to the med-team outside she yells “Come in.” Brin passes out again.
Brin wakes up in another bed; this one much less comfortable and far more clinical. The room itself is white, but the bed is grey and silver. Sarah is sat next to him on a chair; watching him.
“What time is it?” he asks.
“About half past two.”
“You didn’t have to wait. You need to get some sleep.”
“In a while.” One of the clinical staff walks in. “How’s he doing nurse?”
“He’ll live, if he doesn’t do another runner.” the nurse replies, “He’ll not be flying for a while, but he should be up and about for the ceremony tomorrow, although he may need to use a crutch for a while. The relapse started some internal bleeding in his lung. It healed very quickly but we had had to drain some blood out of his lungs, with the broken ribs as well, he’ll be very short of breath and energy for a few weeks.”
“Thank you.” replied Sarah.
“I guess I’m going to be seeing a lot of this place before I’m shipped off.”
“Look on the bright side, no more cuts and bruises from Hand-To-Hand Combat Practice.”
“I guess there is that.” He grins, “Some of those weapons were pretty gruesome though. I remember after Christmas in the second year we went from basic hand to hand to common weapons, the first lesson of the term I walk in thirty seconds late, and the instructor threw a knife at me; stuck in the wall two inches in front of my nose. Never turned up late again though.”
“Did you ever try using that electro-flail in third year exotics?”
“Only once, that thing was vicious. I guess we can start forgetting all that engineering and physics that they taught us now.”
“I suppose; you know what I wanna forget though?”
“Fleet Strategy and Tactic” they both say in unison and laugh. Sarah’s turns quickly into a long yawn.
“You really do need to get some sleep,” said Brin.
“I’m fine, really.” Sarah replies emphatically.
“No, go get some rest; I’ll see you in the morning.”
“O.K, but I’m going to be here early tomorrow, to walk you to the ceremony.” She stands up, leans over and kisses him lightly on the cheek.
“Fine, I don’t have the energy to argue anyhow. Goodnight.” Sarah walks towards the door. As she leaves he says, “Lights,” to the room in general and they dim.
“Goodnight Brin,” she says softly as she quietly closes the door knowing he is already asleep.
“Rise and shine Sleepy,” says a soft voice in Talons ear, “We’ve got a lot to do before the ceremony this morning.”